the surf movie dead

19 July 2008 14:49:00 AEST

What actually happened to the Surf Film Genre? Unlike many genres which retain their timeless formula such as the western, the Surf Movie seems to be tied inextricably to the prevelant culture of the day. When clint Eastwood made Unforgiven in 1992, it echoed the same themes of The Searchers (1956) and even the more contemporary 3:10 to Yuma (2007). The Surf Movie is a very different beast however. There is a literal ocean between Gidget (1959) and Blue Crush (2002) yet the fan base is the same.Even Elvis got in on thescene with Blue Hawaii (1961). Who will ever forget those timeless studio scenes of a 30 foot waimea monster playing on a white screen in the background while the 2nd Grip sprayed water across Elvis's Number 6 makeup tan.

There have been some real gems on the way, Big Wednesday (1978) and some real stinkers, In God's Hands (1998). The genre was quick to break into a documentary and narrative stream right from it's inception. The great Surfing Documentary films, Endless Summer (1966) and Morning of The Earth (1973) were such perfect examples of their craft that they transcended a pure surfing audience snd permeated through into the mainstream. The result often leads to spikes in the popularity of surfing and over the last 40 years has been primarily responsible for the total prize money available to professional surfers rising from $100 in 1964 to the several million on offer in the 2008 ASP tour. Films that have attempted to blend the two genres such as North Shore (1987) have enjoyed mixed results.

The genre reached ultimate maturity with the animated success of Surf's Up (2007) but where to from here? The surf documentary reached maturity long ago and little has changed since Bruce Brown hung up his 16mm Bolex. Moreover, this market is now swamped by backyard productions shot on toilet paper with garage bound soundtracks stuck to the covers of competing surf magazines. The last hope lies with the narrative structured films. Is there another Point Break out there (1991) or a transcending film such as Endless Summer? The audience is there as it always has been, the waves are still there of course and there are plenty left yet to be ridden. What is lacking is the story to bring it all together, the plot that offers more depth than 'three college guys on vacation', the Director with more experience than last years Tropfest, and a budget that allows for a soundtrack not recorded at a Year 10 School Formal in Western Sydney. Too much to ask? I think not, but until it happens we're in for a deep sleep - wake me up when something new happens, I'll be watching my Endless Summer reruns.


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